Barcelona, Paris, Athens, Santorini

I can’t believe spring break has already come and gone. Somehow I was able to pack for ten days in one backpack. I feel like a miracle worker and this might be one of my highest accomplishments to date. I started my break in Barcelona with Lauren and Natalie. We started our first full day by eating at Brunch and Cake. If you go to Barcelona, then you absolutely have to eat there. I know I have said it before, but this is the best food I have had in Europe. I seriously mean it this time. After breakfast we walked around the Borne and Gothic district. It was a cute area with little shops. Afterwards we walked along La Rambla, which had a bunch of little stands selling souvenirs. We stumbled upon a large outdoor market and looked around for a while. Our next stop was Park Guell where people take the infamous pictures with the mosaic tile wall. We didn’t know that it was possible for tickets to a park to sell out but apparently it is. At 6 pm the park opens up free of charge to the public. This actually worked out to our favor because we saved 9 euro and got a sunset view for our pictures. We went back to our hostel and changed to go to dinner. We were tired from our day of traveling and decided to go back to our hostel and sleep instead of checking out the nightlife.

Our next day started off with Brunch and Cake again (it’s seriously that good, guys). It was a beautiful day out so we decided to walk down to the beach. I really enjoyed walking along the water and seeing the ports where all the boat sail into. We sat by the ocean for a while, which was so peaceful. Afterwards we made our way to see the Sagrada Familia. I am still in shock at how big the basilica was. I have been to quite a few basilicas since being in Europe and this is by far the most impressive. I would recommend purchasing your tickets in advance to ensure you are able to get in. It sells out fast for the day otherwise. Our flight left later that night so by the time we walked around the city a little it was time to head to the airport to fly to Paris.

We had a strange and slightly scary issue at the airport. Somehow a man got onto our plane without any form of ID. I’m not exactly sure how that is even possible but security here is a lot more relaxed than it is in the U.S. We didn’t know what was being said because everyone on the plane spoke French. From what I understood, the man was arguing with the flight attendant and tried to give him money to let him stay on the plane. That was unique. Finally the flight attendant got him off the plane but everyone started to freak out because he didn’t leave with all the luggage he came on with. Everyone had to show the attendants their baggage and get off the plane and claim any baggage they had below the plane. I was too confused to feel scared but you could pick up from people’s body language that things weren’t right. After two hours of delay we were finally able to leave the airport and get on our way.

We stayed at an Air BnB in Paris, which ended up being really nice to have our own space and shower. I have never really been to a big city. I haven’t even been to Chicago. I live a sheltered life. Paris blew my mind with how big it was. The public transportation was a lifesaver. We spent our first day in Paris doing a little, I mean a lot, of shopping. We stopped and went inside the Notre Dame. It’s amazing how such a small chapel could be reconstructed into something of that size. We made our way to the Eiffel Tower but had a slight hiccup. Lauren and Natalie didn’t validate a ticket because the gates to get into the metro were still open. Of course when it was my turn to go they shut so I had to use a metro ticket to open them again. We rode the metro to the Eiffel Tower but as we got off there were police officers checking tickets. Lauren and Nat ended up having to pay a 33-euro fine for not having a validated ticket. It would have been a 50-euro fine if they didn’t have a ticket on them to prove that they had previously purchased one. My advice to you is always validate the ticket!! They were good sports about it and laughed it off for the most part. There’s really nothing you can do other than laugh at your bad luck. We walked around the Eiffel tower and hung out in a near by park to take some pictures and eat crepes.

Our next day started off with going to the catacombs. We got there and the line was about a three-hour wait so we decided to come back another day and go to the Louvre. We were able to get in within 20 minutes and for free because we had our passports with us to show our student visa. We walked around for two hours and saw probably only a fourth or less of the museum. It was insane with how much art was in there. The Mona Lisa was so overrated. I knew it was a smaller painting but it was a lot different than I originally thought. There was a mass of people around it so we had to wait and push through to get a better look at it. We were tired and hungry and took the metro 40 minutes to Chipotle. We were in heaven to finally have a little taste of home. We ended up staying at there for four hours talking and binging on Wi-Fi.

We began the next day by going to the catacombs. We got there at about 10:30-11 and waited a little over two hours in line. I think we should have bought an audio guide so we would have had a better idea of what it was all about. There were limited signs and the further into the tunnels we got, the less English was on them. It was kind of creepy to be walking through tiny tunnels with over six million dead bodies surrounding you. If you don’t have time to make it to the catacombs, don’t worry because you’re not missing out on too much. We went back to the Eiffel Tower and rode the lift to the top. The city literally never ends. Each building just faded into another. The tower was a lot more industrial looking than I originally thought. I also didn’t realize how many people could fit on the tower. We ended up going back to Chipotle for dinner. We may have went a little over board but I have no regrets.

We had to be up at 3 am to catch our flight to Athens so we went to sleep early that night. We made it to Greece with no weird airport encounters thankfully. We only had about 12 hours in Athens until our next flight to Santorini. We checked our backpacks into a luggage hold that worked out really nice. We only had to pack 4 euro to have the airport hold our bags for the day. It would have been miserable to walk around with our heavy, turtle shells. We got a taxi and had it drop us off the Acropolis. While we waited in line to get our tickets, a news crew came up and interviewed us on the price of tickets to popular attractions. It was 12 euro to get in and in a year they plan on raising it to 20 euro per a person. We weren’t really ready for the questions they asked so we did a lot of awkward laughing but we can say we made the nightly news in Greece! However, when we go to the ticket counter we ended up getting in free because we showed the guy our student visas so I don’t think the news crew had their facts right. I suggest bringing your passport and student ID with you to places because there’s a strong change you will get in free or a discounted price. Make sure you keep your passport in a SAFE place if you carry it with you! We walked around the site for a while and left to head towards Plaka, which the area where all the shops are. There wasn’t much clothes shopping but there were a lot of souvenirs and leather items to purchase. I have a show obsession and this was like walking into heaven. We strolled the streets and did some more shopping. We stopped for lunch and a fish pedicure. I was freaked out at first to stick my feet in the water but after the first few minutes it was fine. By the time we got dinner it was time to head back to the airport. There is obviously a ton of things to do in Athens but a day was a perfect amount of time for me. Maybe it’s because I was so excited to get to Santorini.

Santorini was absolutely amazing and my favorite place in Europe so far. We started our day by going to a nearby bakery for a light breakfast. After that we rented four wheelers for our next few days on the island. I recommend renting them if you go there because it made getting around the island easier and we were able to see so much of it. I didn’t realized how big the island actually was or how many islands Greece had. I thought there was about ten but there is actually over a thousand. We rode our four wheelers from 10:30 am to 8:30 pm nonstop. We started at the very southern tip of the island and worked our way north. We didn’t realize how intense the sun was because the wind kept us cool. Natalie ended up getting fried to a crisp. We were exhausted from being up for almost 24 hours the night before so we called it a night relatively early.

We spent the next morning walking around the little shopping district that was 15 minutes from our hostel. Natalie ended up by SPF 50 sunscreen that cost her 30 euro. It was an expensive but necessary purchase. We made our way to the black sand beach and laid out for the day. We stopped at a sandwich shop for some food and had these pita club sandwiches that were so good. They had tomato, onion, lettuce, taziki sauce, feta cheese spread, chicken, and French fries piled inside. It looked sort of weird but tasted so good. We went back to our hostel and showered to get ready to go to Oia to watch the sunset. Oia is a small, town where all the classic blue, dome pictures are taken at sunset. We had dinner and walked around the city for a while then went to a small bar for a few drinks. The next day we ended up going back to the beach to lay out before our flight left. It was a nice change of pace to be able to just relax instead of feeling like we constantly had to be out and looking at museums. I could have easily spent another day there but unfortunately we had to get back to Florence. Spring break was a nice break from the stress of midterms.

 

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